Donald Trump’s personal lawyer has claimed there was “nothing wrong” with his campaign taking information from Russia, as the fallout and toxicity triggered by the publication of Robert Mueller’s report grew.
As Democrats said they were keeping open their options of seeking to impeach Mr Trump for his alleged efforts to obstruct Mr Mueller’s probe, Rudy Giuliani went on the offensive, saying “any politician” in the US would have sought damaging information about an electoral rival.
“There’s nothing wrong with taking information from Russians,” Mr Giuliani told CNN.
Asked by CNN host Jake Tapper if he would have taken information from a foreign source, the former New York City mayor replied: “I probably wouldn’t. I wasn’t asked. I would have advised, just out of excess of caution, don’t do it.”
Mr Giuliani’s defence of the president came after senator Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential candidate who lost to Barack Obama, launched a scathing attack on Mr Trump’s campaign, following the release of Mr Mueller’s report.
While the report said it did not find evidence the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, it said the “investigation established multiple links between Trump campaign officials and individuals tied to the Russian government”. It also said, Russia’s alleged interference in the election was intended to help Mr Trump.
Among those interactions was a now infamous meeting at Trump Tower in New York in the summer of 2016, when Mr Trump’s eldest son and other campaign members, met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer who had allegedly offered incriminating information about Hillary Clinton.
The president later said no such information had been provided, and that the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, was seeking to lobby the campaign on overturning a specific US sanction targeting several Russians.
Mr Romney, one of a just a handful of senior Republicans to voice concern about the report’s finding, said in a statement released on Friday: “I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the president.
“I am also appalled that, among other things, fellow citizens working in a campaign for president welcomed help from Russia.”
Speaking on Sunday, Mr Giuliani claimed Mr Romney’s 2012 campaign had also tried to “dig up dirt on people”.
“Stop the bull. What a hypocrite. What a hypocrite,” Mr Giuliani said. “Any candidate in the whole world in America would take information – who says it’s even illegal?”
Democrats are now confronted with a difficult choice of whether to push for Mr Trump’s impeachment, something favoured by progressives such as Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or focus their efforts on defeating him in the 2020 election.
Democrat Jerry Nadler, chair of the House of Representative’s judiciary committee, whose panel would lead any impeachment proceedings, said his party would press ahead with investigations of Mr Trump in congress and “see where the facts lead us”.
“Obstruction of justice, if proven, would be impeachable,” he told NBC News.
Congressman Adam Schiff, chair of the same chamber’s intelligence committee, told Fox News the issue of whether to seek Mr Trump’s impeachment would be “very consequential”. He added: “I’m going to reserve judgment on until we have a chance to fully deliberate on it.”